Before he died of cancer at age 20, Arroyo Grande High School graduate Ryan Teixeira pledged to give other young people what he never got: a victory trip.
Supporters of Teixeira’s 17Strong foundation gathered at Arroyo Grande High on Thursday night to award free, week-long vacations to three Central Coast natives who “kicked cancer’s butt,” said Holly Teixeira, Ryan’s mother.
Based in Pismo Beach, 17Strong gives free “victory trips,” or, dream vacations aimed at recuperation, to young adults battling life-threatening illnesses.
Ryan Teixeira’s father said his son, a star baseball player who died in March after a second cancer diagnosis, started the nonprofit organization after failing to qualify for a similar trip due to his age.
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“Ryan said it shouldn’t matter how old you are. If you’re fighting this horrible disease, you should have something to look forward to,” Steve Teixeira said.
On Thursday, 17Strong announced its first victory trip recipients: Jimmy Aldridge of Orcutt, Ryan Mackereth of Lompoc and Melissa Matheson of Santa Maria. All three were treated at Mission Hope Cancer Center in Santa Maria, and are now considered cancer-free.
Matheson, a 28-year-old breast cancer survivor who works at a local credit union, will be the first to depart on her trip. She and her husband head to the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia next week.
It’ll be the couple’s first trip together without their children, ages 4, 6 and 10. “Moms don’t really get to relax when on vacation,” Matheson joked, so she opted to travel to “some place relaxing and nice and warm.”
An Alaskan cruise is in store in late September for Mackereth, a 31-year-old testicular cancer survivor. The trip will serve as a honeymoon for the recent nursing school graduate and his wife, who wed Aug. 25 in San Luis Obispo.
Aldridge, 26, is studying engineering at Allen Hancock College in Santa Maria. The colon cancer survivor will travel to Tokyo with a friend in December.
Holly Teixeira said 17Strong has a couple more victory trips “in the pipeline,” but those recipients won’t be announced until next year.
For more information about 17Strong, visit seventeenstrong.org.